December 19, 2013
The 13-Team TA
Signed DH-L Raul Ibanez to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. [12/18]
As useful as projecting players is, sometimes you have to shrug your shoulders and take a shot in the dark. Ibanez is a great example. Although Baseball America ranked him the Mariners' seventh-best prospect entering the 1999 season, he didn't appear in more than 100 games in a major league campaign until 2001, when he was 29 years old and with his second organization. Five years later, Ibanez hit more than 25 home runs for the first time in the Show, a feat which he's accomplished twice more, including last season, when he homered 29 times in 496 plate appearances as a 41-year-old. This from a guy who, through his first 518 big-league plate appearances, had a 73 OPS+.
But Ibanez has atoned for that sluggish start. He's accumulated more WARP after turning 30 than the likes of Cal Ripken Jr., Ryne Sandberg, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez, and countless others did. He's within sneezing distance of (probable) future Hall of Famers Frank Thomas and Mike Piazza, and within five wins of evergreen contemporaries like David Ortiz and Derek Jeter. This from a guy who, throughout his 18-year career, has played a poor left field.
So how should we feel about the Angels turning to a 42-year-old Ibanez as their DH most days? History doesn't give us many comparable data points. Only three players since 1980 have homered more than 20 times during their age-41 season: Barry Bonds, Dave Winfield, and Darrell Evans. Bonds followed his season with a 28-homer performance, while Winfield and Evans hit about 10 apiece. Ibanez was never as talented as those players, and forged a legitimate big-league career largely due to his monomaniacal approach to conditioning, but you almost have to root for the guy. This from me, a guy who five years ago considered him a dumb signing by the Phillies. —R.J. Anderson
No one drafted Ibanez in mixed-league formats last season. No one will draft Ibanez in mixed-league formats next season. He’s about as unsexy as unsexy gets, but the man still hits for power and should be given ample playing time as the Angels’ primary DH. Despite Safeco’s damning reputation, Angels Stadium is equally unfriendly to left-handed power, so Ibanez won’t see much of a boost there. He should be batting in a better lineup than the one he found himself in last year, though, and he’s a decent bet to hit 20-plus homers once again. If you’re starved for power in super deep or AL-only leagues, he’s worth a flier. —Ben Carsley
The Justin Maxwell and Norichika Aoki trades appeared to doom David Lough to a return to Triple-A, so Dan Duquette did him a mitzvah by bringing him to Baltimore. The Orioles lost Nate McLouth to the Nationals earlier this month, and Lough (McLough?) is a McLouth replacement right down to the handedness (left) and the height and weight (5’11", 180). Like McLouth, Lough can play all three outfield positions, and he’s above-average in a corner. Unlike McLouth, he doesn’t take walks or refuse to swing outside the strike zone, so he’s dependent on having a healthy BABIP. However, he has a few things going for him that the departed outfielder doesn’t: he’s over four years younger and roughly 10 times cheaper, and he hasn’t shown much of a platoon split in either a tiny Kansas City sample or during his time in Triple-A.
Lough won’t be a free agent until after 2019, so the Orioles get plenty of cost-controlled service, but he’ll turn 28 next month, so he’s probably not going to get better than this. The Orioles seem to see him as an everyday guy, though they’ll likely spell him in left with the right-handed hitting Steve Pearce and Nolan Reimold (as well as lefty Henry Urrutia). Lough’s lack of patience and power paint him as more of a fourth outfielder than a successful starter; then again, no one thought McLouth would do what he did after Duquette picked him up. This move makes Baltimore better, but the lineup would look a lot stronger if Duquette could pull a designated hitter out of his hat. —Ben Lindbergh
For the moment, Lough is penciled in as the starting left fielder for the Orioles. Most of Lough's real life value comes from his defense, so even if Lough does manage to stick and get 600 at-bats, he remains an AL-only play. The biggest difference due to the trade is that Lough could sneak into double-digit earnings with a shot at regular playing time. It’s still possible that the Orioles will go out and sign another free agent, so this bump in Lough's value could be fleeting. —Mike Gianella
Acquired INF-S Jonathan Herrera from the Rockies for LHP Franklin Morales and RHP Chris Martin. [12/18]
Acquired LHP Josh Outman from the Rockies for OF-R Drew Stubbs. [12/18]
Outman is 29, but he didn’t find his calling until 2013, when for the first time he pitched exclusively out of the pen. Although his career starter/reliever ERA split (4.60/4.63) doesn’t show it, Outman is much more impressive when he airs it out in relief, striking out over a batter per inning with significantly improved stuff. Working in short bursts last season, he abandoned a fringy curveball and upped his sinker and slider rates, posting a career-high groundball rate and getting whiffs on 52.9 percent of swings at the slider, the third-highest rate among relievers. He held lefties to a .198/.278/.261 line.
As a sinker/slider guy, Outman fits the profile of a pitcher with big platoon splits, and his career line versus right-handed hitters is as ugly as you’d suspect: .303/.376/.468. That’s a massive flaw, but it’s also an opportunity: with more managerial attention to matchups—and some regression from his .343 BABIP with the Rockies—Outman could become a weapon for Cleveland over his last two years of team control. —Ben Lindbergh
Although Guzman is unlikely to post overall numbers similar to those from his 2011 season, he should be a useful part of Houston's bench. The Venezuelan native can play each corner position and, with the exception of last season, has historically mashed lefties with his line-drive hitting style. It's a small move, but give Jeff Luhnow credit for turning a waiver-wire claim into a better fit for his club. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired 3B-R Danny Valencia from the Orioles for OF-L David Lough. [12/18]
At the end of my article on Kansas City’s Omar Infante signing, I called their lineup “a balanced order with fewer glaring holes than the one with which Kansas City started last season.” The closest thing to a weak point, aside from defense-first shortstop Alcides Escobar, was third baseman Mike Moustakas, who hit .233/.287/.364 overall last season, and .196/.256/.290 versus southpaws (against whom he has a .222/.275/.332 line). Moustakas is only 25 and still stands a chance to figure it out (“it” being offense), but another slow start from him could have crippled the Royals, who’ll need all the runs they can get to offset some regression on the mound.
Enter the insurance. Valencia, a 29-year-old right-handed hitter, is a career .329/.367/.513 hitter versus southpaws. Some of that is BABIP (.357) and small sample size (428 PA), but hitting left-handers has always been his strongest—and also his only—skill. He’s a below-average defender at third, but Moustakas didn’t exactly look like Adrian Beltre at the hot corner himself last season, so the difference between their bats should make up for the glove gap. The two might not start the season in a strict timeshare, as the Royals would likely prefer for the younger player to prove he can handle an everyday role, but the team would probably benefit from putting a full-time platoon into practice.
Kansas City had little need for Lough and, relatively speaking, a lot of need for a Moustakas platoon partner, so this one is a win for both sides. The Royals haven’t overtaken the Tigers this winter, but Dayton Moore has made a string of smart moves at the major-league level. And when was the last time we were willing to say that without crossing our fingers or cracking a smile? —Ben Lindbergh
Valencia is a good fit for the lefty-heavy Royals, but little changes for him from a fantasy perspective. His value lies mostly in AL-only leagues as a third corner infielder. If the Royals spot him as ably as the Orioles did in 2013, Valencia could provide some sneaky value once again, but he remains nothing more than a $1 endgame play.
While Billy Butler could lose a few at-bats to Valencia, it is far more likely that Valencia was acquired with Moustakas in mind. Moustakas isn't going to lose his job, but will probably sit against most lefties, especially to start the 2014 campaign. This could help Moustakas' batting average, but generally speaking platoon players aren't as valuable in fantasy as everyday guys. —Mike Gianella
Drafted by the Braves with the 28th overall selection in a 2011 draft loaded with high-end pitching talent, Gilmartin was seen by many as a polished college lefty with a solid four-pitch repertoire and outstanding pitchability. He was coming off of his junior season at Florida State University, in which he started 16 games, throwing just over 113 innings and striking out 9.7 batters per nine en route to a 1.83 ERA. Despite his success in a strong conference, many questioned the pick, claiming that the ACC product had a good probability of making the big-league staff sooner rather than later, though his upside was limited to the back-end of the rotation.
Following a post-draft trip to the AFL, Gilmartin reached the highest level of the minors in his first full professional season in 2012, sporting a 3.84 ERA across both Double-A and Triple-A. The athletic lefty showcased outstanding command and an ability to log innings, though he struggled to miss bats and produce enough plane and horizontal movement on his fastball to induce groundball outs. This year was a last one for the prospect. After posting a 5.80 ERA in his first 13 starts of the season, he was placed on the disabled list in mid-June with shoulder tendinitis. He missed over a month with the injury and continued to labor once he returned to Triple-A Gwinnett for his final four starts of the season.
The six-foot-two, 190-pound lefty throws four pitches, three of which earn fringe-average to slightly above average grades depending upon the author of the report. The fastball sits in the upper-80s, touching as high as the low-90s in shorter stints, with some ability to manipulate the offering laterally. Gilmartin adds and subtracts with the pitch, increasing cut and run when necessary. His slider, which sits in the upper-70s to low-80s, is his best secondary offering to arm-side hitters and consistently elicits average grades. At its best, the slider features fairly sharp two-plane break, slicing late in its trajectory.
As is the case with most pitchability lefties, Gilmartin’s changeup is his main squeeze. The pitch ranges in velocity from the upper-70s to the low-80s and features above-average arm-side run and tumble. Depending on the situation, Gilmartin can garner weak contact or swings-and-misses with the offering, and while he primarily throws the pitch to right-handed hitters, he is not afraid to mix it into sequence against southpaws, burying the pitch on their shoe-tops. A below-average low-70s curveball rounds out the left-hander’s repertoire. The offering is nothing more than a show-me pitch due to a noticeable hump out of the hand, and he will mainly deploy it early in sequence versus right-handers in an attempt to steal a strike.
Gilmartin’s mechanics are compact, balanced, and efficient. The athletic lefty has high hips and a deceptively strong lower half. He brings his hands over his head to begin his prototypical wind-up, and upon reaching his balance point, he allows his front hip to lead the way toward the plate, getting decent separation between his upper and lower body. He will occasionally come high with his front side (particularly when throwing his curveball), but he consistently stays closed and maintains a short, compact arm stroke in the back, allowing for good deception. Although he swings his front leg into foot plant, he maintains a good line to the plate. He finishes well over a firm, flexed front leg, achieving some extension. His aesthetically pleasing delivery is both repeatable and effortless, and he reaches the plate in 1.5 seconds from the stretch, give or take a few hundredths of a second.
With command of his entire arsenal in all quadrants of the zone and the ability to mix his pitches effectively, Gilmartin will be a major-league ready option in 2014. The injury is a lingering concern in terms of his long-term efficacy, but all reports indicate that he will ready to go by the spring. He won’t ever headline a rotation, but Gilmartin could log 175-plus innings per year in the back of a rotation and provide plenty of value in his cost-controlled seasons. His margin for error is very slim, however, and he could ultimately become an up-and-down spot starter who fails to consistently fool hitters at the major-league level. —Ethan Purser
I’ve written about Pinto plenty on the site before, and the Doumit trade only increases his prospective 2014 value. Now that neither Doumit nor Joe Mauer will block Pinto’s path to regular playing time behind the plate, I think he’s a solid bet to be a Top 20 option at the position next season. Wilson Ramos hit .276 with 16 homers and 59 RBI last season and finished as the 17th-best catcher in fantasy. Pinto can reproduce those numbers, and he’ll be a popular sleeper next season.
Gilmartin doesn’t strike anyone out and is generally regarded as a fringe MLB starting option. Maybe he’ll progress to the point where you can use him as a streamer in the future, but he’s not worth monitoring right now despite his first-round pedigree. At least he’s going to a good ballpark. —Ben Carsley
Re-signed OF-R Franklin Gutierrez to a one-year deal worth $1 million. [12/18]
Unreliability is supposed to be an unattractive trait in ballplayers and mates alike. But sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder and, in the case of Gutierrez and the Mariners, so does need. Once a brilliant center fielder, whose power and speed obscured his hacking tendencies, Gutierrez has appeared in little more than a season's worth of games since 2011. Instead, he's suffered from numerous injuries, including, but not limited to: strains of the hamstring, pectoral, and oblique; a concussion; and an unspecified stomach ailment. The only conclusion to make about Gutierrez's health is that at some point during a season, for some odd reason, it's likely to cost him games.
Be that as it may, Gutierrez is a logical fit on this Seattle roster. The Mariners are slated to start three left-handed outfielders most days, and while these things have the tendency to change, they could use a capable right-handed alternative. Gutierrez showed last season he can hang with big-league pitching, and the man nicknamed Death to Flying Things knows his way around the outfield well enough to cover each spot. It's a good story waiting to happen if Gutierrez can stay healthy; if he can't, then at least the Mariners weren't relying on him for much. —R.J. Anderson
Reportedly re-signed 3B-L Eric Chavez. [12/18]
Chavez won’t often start against lefties, so his value is limited to NL only or deeper leagues. The last time he logged triple-digit plate appearances against left-handed pitching was 2007, when he hit .234/.292/.411 against them in 137 PAs. However, Chavez owns a .279/.357/.510 career slash line against righties, and he hit .279/.335/.492 against them in 2013. Expect more of the same in a fairly small sample next season. —Mauricio Rubio
Acquired C/OF-S Ryan Doumit from the Twins for LHP Sean Gilmartin. [12/18]
When Doumit returned from a concussion last September, Ron Gardenhire announced that he wouldn’t risk putting the part-time catcher back behind the plate, where a foul tip could lead to another blow to the brain. Whether or not that was the manager’s sole motivation, he was doing both Doumit and Minnesota a service by banning him from being a backstop. In fact, someone should have stripped Doumit of his catcher’s gear ages ago—if not for his health, then for the good of his team.
I included a “Worst Ryan Doumit Frame of the Week” feature in my “This Week in Catcher Framing” series this season for a reason: Doumit is the anti-Molina, the worst receiver baseball has seen for at least the last 25 years. The numbers are staggering. According to Max Marchi’s framing model, Doumit was 173 runs below average as a receiver from 2008-13. Every method of assessing framing devised so far has revealed him to be by far the worst on a rate basis. It's not a complete coincidence that Doumit had the worst individual winning percentage of any active player when Sam Miller and I looked it up on Effectively Wild Episode 289.
When asked in September whether he planned to be behind the plate in 2014, Doumit answered, “Absolutely.” Of course, to make good on that threat, he needed an enabler. So that’s why it’s scary that Doumit was just traded to a club that carried three catchers last season, and seems determined to do it again. Christian Bethancourt could use some time in Triple-A, so Doumit figures to be the third-stringer behind Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird (who’s no great shakes as a receiver himself).* With Doumit on the roster, Fredi Gonzalez can feel free to pinch hit Gattis or Laird, leaving Doumit in the unlikely role of a defensive replacement. The switch-hitter—who’ll turn 33 shortly after Opening Day—can also make appearances in the outfield corners or at first base, though he’d be a big downgrade from the starters at those spots.
*It’s curious that the Braves could have had Brian McCann and David Ross, two of baseball’s best framing catchers, and still seem content to play Laird and Doumit. And as this quote makes clear, Atlanta’s interest in Doumit wasn’t lukewarm. The whole front office fell for him:
Realistically, Doumit probably won’t play much at any position. His 373 2/3 innings at catcher last season were his fewest since 2007, and barring an injury to Gattis or Laird, he should come in under that in 2014. When he does catch, the Braves will suffer for it, but even Doumit needs a sizeable sample to do serious damage. The question, then, is how much production remains in Doumit’s bat after his worst offensive season since an injury-plagued 2009. Before we knew what he was costing his teams behind the plate, Doumit’s power made him look like an asset. If some of that pop is still there, the Braves will find room for him on the roster. And it might even make sense, especially if they resist the temptation to use him in the worst possible way. —Ben Lindbergh
Doumit is trending down here due to playing time. He was likely to steal at least 450 or so PA as a C/OF/DH in Minnesota, but it’s hard to see him approaching that total in Atlanta. It’s possible that the Braves could go with a Doumit/Gattis platoon behind the plate, but Doumit is to catcher defense what Doumit’s eyes are to good nights of sleep and happy thoughts.
The Braves could punt defense altogether, but I think the odds of Gerald Laird and Christian Bethancourt starting regularly are better than most Doumit owners would prefer. And while Doumit has a decent bat for a backstop, it’s not as if he’s such a great offensive threat that he’ll force his way into the lineup. The uncertainty here makes Doumit a non-factor in mixed leagues for now, though his catcher eligibility makes him worth keeping an eye on in case the playing time is there.
Your initial reaction is probably to assume that Gattis will see a drop in value, but I still think he gets enough starts and pinch-hitting chances to be relevant in NL-only leagues. As we saw last year, he needs only 300 PA to challenge for 20 homers. —Ben Carsley
Acquired OF-R Drew Stubbs from the Indians for LHP Josh Outman. [12/18]
When we talk about player acquisitions and park factors, we focus on hitting and pitching, but rarely fielding. Partially because we don't have a good grasp on the variables that matter—grass height, wall angles, turf speed, visibility and the like. Take Coors Field. We know it has a spacious lawn and we know baseballs bounce around like ping pong balls within its confines. But how often do we consider what those factors mean for fielding the ball? What if, because of those factors, there are a disproportionate number of plays that required outfielders to go back on balls? Then it would make sense to assemble a defensive unit that excels that aspect above all else.
Perhaps Colorado had the same thought. Between Brandon Barnes and Stubbs, they've acquired two good defenders to pair with Carlos Gonzalez late in games, when Michael Cuddyer and Corey Dickerson shift to the bench. At least, that's where Stubbs is most likely to help the Rockies. His offensive game has regressed since his 2010 season, and he combines a slugger's strikeout rate with an ISO befitting a middle infielder. Even last season, during which Terry Francona used him against a career-high rate of lefties, his numbers weren't overly impressive. He's probably another bad season away from signing on a minor-league deal, so the move to Coors Field couldn't come at a better time.
That's decidedly untrue for Morales, who missed most of 2013 due to back and chest issues. Morales is familiar with Coors, having came through the Rockies system and spent parts of five seasons with Colorado, and doesn't appear to be the best fit for the ballpark. Morales is primarily a fastball-splitter-curveball pitcher, with a developing cutter and slider. How he approaches his second go with Coors is to be determined, but this is not what he wanted for Christmas. —R.J. Anderson
Even if Stubbs is only a fourth outfielder, moving from Cleveland to Colorado instantly gives him a significant value bump. Corey Dickerson is penciled in as the starter but didn't do anything significant to distinguish himself in 2013, and Stubbs could steal a fair amount of time. Stubbs' poor BA still makes him better left for deeper mixed leagues and NL-only leagues, even if he is the starter, but his value gets a bump up nevertheless.
Dickerson might still wind up getting most of the starts in left field, but with Brandon Barnes and Stubbs both competing with him for playing time, an already iffy proposition got a little iffier. Dickerson could still wind up with 500-plus at bats, but if you're drafting now or anytime before Spring Training, I wouldn't count on it.
If the Rockies decide that they don't want to clutter their bench with poor contact outfielders, it's much more likely that Barnes, and not Stubbs, is the odd man out. Barnes was already a borderline spec play even with the Coors bump; his value is even more on the marginal side now, even in NL-only. —Mike Gianella
Signed 3B-R Casey McGehee to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million. [12/18]
Slowly but surely this winter, Dan Jennings has remade Miami's infield with low-cost veteran additions. First he signed Rafael Furcal and Garrett Jones to fill out the right side, and now he's penned McGehee to a cheap one-year deal to man third base. The now 31-year-old returns after spending last year in Japan. When we last saw him stateside, he struggled his way to a .221/.282/.351 mark in 2011-2012. As ugly as that line is, the bar is set low since Miami's third baseman last season collectively hit .248/.315/.300. Should McGehee can find his 2009-2010 self on South Beach, then the Marlins might just have a passable third baseman to go along with their improved infield. Otherwise, expect Donovan Solano and Derek Dietrich to get a fair share of playing time. —R.J. Anderson
It is entirely possible that McGehee washes out, but he goes from out of baseball in 2013 to penciled in for a starting job with the Marlins in 2014. The poor batting average and diminishing power make McGehee worthwhile only for NL-only owners, but at the right single-digit price he's an intriguing gamble.
It seemed unlikely that either Lucas or Dobbs would be the Marlins’ starting third baseman in 2014, but this move confirms it if McGehee has anything left in the tank. Both players could have been worth shots in the dark in NL-only leagues; now they are players who are probably yours for $1. Even in NL-only, these are the kind of options that make you hold your nose for a few weeks and cross your fingers that you can upgrade your roster as soon as is humanly possible. —Mike Gianella
Signed RHP Joaquin Benoit to a two-year deal worth $15.5 million. [12/18]
Evaluating a move independent from the rest of the offseason is like viewing a movie clip; it doesn't make sense without additional context.
When the Padres traded Luke Gregerson to the Athletics for Seth Smith, that didn't make sense. Josh Byrnes had too many outfielders and not enough end-game relievers. After signing Benoit, Byrnes still has too many outfielders, but the bullpen situation is coming into focus. Even the most ardent fans of Gregerson have to admit Benoit is,at worst, a comparable talent—or, at least, has been over the past three seasons:
*The difference between their TAv platoon splits
Add in Smith and whatever else the Padres get from their subsequent outfield-related moves, and the case can be made Byrnes came out ahead.
But, for the time being, let's focus on Benoit. The Dominican native, who was originally signed by Omar Minaya, does his work with a mid-90s fastball, trapdoor splitter, and occasional slider. Since returning from shoulder surgery in 2010, he's averaged more than 60 innings while serving primarily as a set-up man—though he did close for the Tigers last season despite physical concerns. Presumably, the Padres will leave Huston Street as the closer, with Benoit inheriting the eighth-inning spot. As a result, don't be surprised if Benoit saves games when Street takes his annual trip to the disabled list—and don't be surprised if the Padres' winter activity looks better in two month's time.
The Padres tried acquiring Jackson earlier in the winter, when the Cardinals put the shortstop on outright waivers. Alas, the Astros beat them to the waiver-claim punch, and so Byrnes had to make a trade for the University of Miami product. Jackson is a capable defender with a skinny bat and skinnier fame. His instincts and defensive abilities should keep him on a big-league bench for years to come. —R.J. Anderson
If you believed that Benoit was going to land in someone's 2014 bullpen as the closer, then by all means turn that arrow in the other direction. However, it seemed fairly likely early on this offseason that Benoit was going to go to someone's bullpen as a set up. He lands in a great situation in Petco, where he's in a very good pitcher's park and behind Huston Street, a closer who hasn't exactly been the most durable arm over the last three seasons. Even if Street stays healthy, it's likely that Benoit gobbles up a few opportunities and allows Street to rest more than he did in 2013. It is highly unlikely that Benoit takes the job on Opening Day, but Street's hold on the job isn't quite as ironclad as it has been in the past. In fantasy, Benoit shouldn't be paid like a closer, but in deeper formats it's worth stashing him for the chance at some random saves more than nearly any other non-closer in MLB.
Street should hang onto the job but he might see more rest as a result of Benoit's acquisition. A perennial trade candidate, it's possible that Street could get dealt at some point during the 2014 campaign as well. Treat him as the closer, but treat him as a lower level option in all formats. —Mike Gianella
R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @r_j_anderson